A group shrouded in mystery, even a glance at the back of the 7″ single sleeve looks like the shot was taken underwater to obscure the band. So who were they? Well all will become clear…..
In 1983 a review in Record Mirror described the sound as The Buggles meets Landscape at an OMD gig where Thomas Dolby turned up too. They began in 1979 as The Screen Gemz in their home town of Splott in south Cardiff. The following year, following no success, they changed direction and their name.
Moving into the electronica era they decided that a new name was needed. So they came up with a daft looking zig-zag, snail-like symbol which looked like this long before it crossed Prince’s mind. The line up now consisted of Karl Hyde (vocals & guitar), Rick Smith (keyboards), Alfie Thomas (keyboards), John Warwicker (also keyboards) and the recently recruited ex-Fabulous Poodles drummer Bryn Burrows.
So why the symbol? The group’s founder Karl Hyde explained, “Because we were fed up with the names that were going around – a lot of them had very political leanings or sounded heavy and pretentious and we just wanted a foot in the door with the record companies. We wanted them to look at our tape amongst the mould of others. The name was the ‘in’. It actually came first but then we thought, oh you can’t really spell that, you’ve got to have a pictograph. It was just a toy, something to brighten up our little existences. “They stuck with Freur which was pronounced Frrrreurrgh.
By their own admission, they didn’t have a lot to say so left the music to say it for them. Doot Doot was their only UK hit which petered out at number 59 in the April 1983. The song’s opens with:, ‘What’s in a name? Face on a stage, where are you now? Memory fades, you take a bow. Here in the dark watching the screen, look at them fall, the final scene and we go doot doot doot. Hmmm- you see what they mean! Maybe it was their sound rather than their lyrics. So how would one describe their sound? Karl again tried to explain, “That’s a tough one! We sounded totally different from our demos. We had so many influences because one minute we’re thinking reggae and then we’ll hear something in a film and have an idea for an atmosphere then we’ll have a heavy metal thought and out a bit of that in too. We had worked with reggae giants Dennis Bovell and Conny Plank, but our ultimate hero band is Motorhead.
The band decided not to release any information about themselves at the time which seemed to backfire because the music press wrote pointless things like ‘they have these instruments called Pole and The Suit’ which as Alfie said, “became the main feature and it seemed like we were trying to make a statement. There were umpteen others too like The Tortoise and The Handbag, but they were just toys there to make playing live a bit more exciting.”
They had the very New Romantic look complete with multi-coloured trousers, tops and socks with masses of frizzy or crimped hair. “We liked the plastic look as it appealed to our sick sense of humour”, Karl added, “It was all made for us by Tracy of Lizard Life in Cardiff.” The parent album of the same name failed to make any impact although one track, Theme from the Film of the Same Name features Pino Palladino on fretless bass who was a member of Paul Young’s band and also Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend’s first choice to replace John Entwistle in The Who.
Five further singles, Matters of the Heart, Runaway, Riders in the Night, The Devil and Darkness and Look in the Back for Answers all failed to chart and it was a further three years until the next album arrived, but was only released in Germany and the Netherlands, but following its relative failure, they called it a day.
Warwicker is now a video artist in the graphic design collective Tomato based in east London whilst the other four members signed to Sire records under the new name Underworld. They had minimal success although one of their tracks, Underneath the Radar in 1988 made the top 5 in Australia. In 1990 they split up only to reform the following year under the same name with Thomas and Burrows being replaced by Darren Emerson and this time with much more success. In 1995 they recorded Born Slippy, the name of a greyhound, ‘for a joke’ but that only made number 52 in the chart. The following year it was remixed and given and a pounding rhythm as well as the repeating chorus of lager, lager, lager. It was picked up for the movie Trainspotting and eventually gave them the success was wanted when it reached number two in the UK chart.